Although you’ll hear plenty of English in Saudi, there’s nothing like knowing a few Arabic expressions to help you really connect with the locals. More reason to learn some basic Arabic: It is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world! Below, we asked some native speakers for a few handy expressions you can use to make new friends in Saudi, whether you’re shopping, dining or just sightseeing. But first...
• Arabic has a non-Latin alphabet of 28 script letters (only three of which are vowels).
• Arabic words and sentences are written and read from right to left, and books and papers from back to front.
• Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is written Arabic. It is generally not spoken, but it is used in academia, print, mass media (you will hear it on some news programs) and the law. Western linguists consider MSA to be different from Classical Arabic, which is used in the Quran and early Islamic literature.
• Punctuation marks are used differently in Arabic than they are in many Western languages: The Arabic comma, for example, faces the opposite direction of English (،) and may be found above the sentence it is used in instead of below. Ditto the question mark ( ؟ versus ?).
• Arabic vocabulary may not be as difficult for English speakers as you’d think, as the two languages share some words: Coffee, sugar, oranges and limes are all terms borrowed from Arabic.
• Countries in the GCC tend to speak the “khaleeji” dialect of Arabic, with some fun local terms thrown in here and there, but they can all understand each other perfectly.
• Do you speak English? = Tetkalam Engleezy?
• I don’t understand much Arabic = Ma afham Arabi
• What is your name? = Eysh Esmk?
• My name is “X” = Ismii “X”
• How are you? = Kaif halak? Kaif al hal? or Kafik?
• I’m fine, thank you = Ana bikhayr shukran
• I hope to return = Atamana arjaa
• Can you help me, please? = Momkn mosa’ada?
• How much? = Kam? or Be kam?
• The meal was delicious! = Alakil latheeth!
• May I have the check, please? = Momken alfatorah law samaht?
• Nice = Hiloo
• Really/very = Marrah (For example, really nice = Marrah hiloo)
• What? = Aish? (What’s this? = Aish hatha?)